Kangaloon Aquifer Issues

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Summary of the Community Reference Group Submission

The Southern Highlands regional community, as represented by the Upper Nepean Groundwater Community Reference Group (CRG), appointed by Minister Debus, is opposed to the proposal to develop a borefield at Kangaloon NSW.

The proposal to pump high quality drinking water from the Kangaloon Aquifer for general residential and industrial use in Sydney and the Illawarra is inequitable to present and future generations of this community and does not follow ecologically sustainable development principles.

Ongoing open communication and community consultation are recommended. The community feels that this project has been rushed, and the full implications of development cannot be ascertained in the short timeframe that investigations have occurred. A five-year moratorium on development would enable adequate data input, improved modelling outcomes and more detailed ecosystem studies.

The potential for the resource to be over-extracted or contaminated is very high. Given the continuing population growth and demand from urban centres and the farming community, the Southern Highlands community fears that the borefield will be regarded as supply augmentation and not a contingency drought supply only. Due to the relative low cost of additional bores, the CRG is concerned that greater quantities than the 15 GL quoted will be extracted if the drought worsens or demand continues to grow.

Sydney and the Illawarra are situated in high rainfall areas and need to become more self-sufficient in water resources management through reusing and harvesting water. Level 3 restrictions are not onerous in severe drought, and these restrictions should be maintained or increased if the drought continues. As outlined in the Metropolitan Water Plan 2006, there are other sustainable and achievable options and strategies that can provide for the future water needs of the metropolitan area. It is those options and strategies that should be urgently employed to adequately and properly provide for future metropolitan water requirements.

There is considerable risk and uncertainty in regard to the environmental sustainability of the proposed borefield for cyclical drought contingency supply. There is considerable uncertainty in regard to:
· sourcing 15 GL for 2-3 years and recovery of the system,
· consequent impacts on surface and groundwater resources,
· the transfer of groundwater via rivers to water storages and
· environmental impacts.

The proposed compensatory measures of deepening bores and lowering pumps of neighbouring groundwater users may not be a feasible or practical solution, however adequate compensation provisions will need to be incorporated into any approval for the project. It is imperative that the authorised use by existing users is maintained.

There is a very high risk that the proposal will adversely impact upon agricultural production and tourism in the region and land values may be degraded. These negative impacts on the local community are to be occasioned for “public good” outcomes in Sydney and the Illawarra in circumstances where there is no realistic proposal to properly compensate those who will suffer loss of income and reduction of asset values as a result.

The supporting technical documents do not satisfy issues of larger spatial and temporal scale, and the broader impacts of the proposal on rivers downstream of the borefield. The interconnectedness of surface and groundwater systems and the lag between cause and effect are not adequately addressed in the current suite of studies.

Before approval of a full-scale borefield can be contemplated, further extensive investigations and testing are essential (as recommended by Woolley and endorsed by McKibbin). The eight recommendations found in the Peer Review of Technical Reports, are endorsed by the CRG.